Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I subscribe to the idea that if you don't have anything nice to say, it's best to say nothing at all. Getting Stevie back in the line up is a step in the right direction, but unfortunately the team no longer has any room for error. The next few weeks will determine the outcome of the season; let's hope it goes well.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Chin Up, Soldier.

Listen up people, I know it sucks to watch your team lose. Last nights loss to the Wild and tonights loss to the Flames were very hard to swallow. However, it's important that we maintain our perspective through these tough times. First, we played very well vs the Wild. The only difference between a win and a loss was they capitalized on their opportunities and we didn't; it's as simple as that. Second, despite the fact that it was on the road in a tough building, tonights game in Calgary was certainly our best performance in a back to back game this year. You could tell the boys didn't quite have their feet under them in the first, yet they still managed to stay competitive.

I am confident that if we continue to play at this level for the remainder of the season, we will not only make the playoffs, but challenge for the division. At game 45, our top 3 lines are now just starting to find some chemistry. Moreover, for the last few games we have remained competitive despite having 4 rookie defensemen in our line up. There was a point in the season, somewhere around the loss to the Ducks in Edmonton, that the team was really struggling. At the time I was starting to think that we were going to have a real hard time being competitive this year. However, what I've seen on the ice since the Florida game leaves me far more optimistic.

So, keep your chins up fellow Oiler fans. Tough times may be upon us, but no one knows it better than those guys in the dressing room. They played hard the last two nights, and I think they deserved to win at least one of the games. It's unfortunate that things didn't work out that way, but it's important that we not lose our perspective. The team is playing well right now; and if they continue to do so, the points won't be far behind.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Oilers-Canucks - Post Game

Well, that sucks. The Oilers really could have used the extra point in this one. I think this means I'm going to have to quit my job. I work part time at GM Place doing the silent auction sales. Puts beer money in my pocket while I go to school. The problem is that most of the time I work in Section 121. How is this a problem? If the Oilers are playing the same night I'm working in this section, they lose. Only once have they won while I've been working there. Normally, I wouldn't be troubled by this sort of superstitious thing, but based on my power to predict overtime vs. Dallas (ask Loxy, it's true) I'm taking stuff like this a little more seriously.

This is going to be pretty positive, despite the loss, because I'm tired of being mad at this team.

- The team looked like they played fairly well overall, which is nice. The overall impression one gets from the last 3 games (yes, even the collapse against Dallas) is that the team is good enough to be winning games. Unlike, say, the last Vancouver game, where they looked like should be relegated to the AHL.

- Hejda is a pretty good dman. I have a sneaky suspicion that Smid will be one of the few Oilers not rushed back from injury. The optics of his arrival may prevent him from being sent to the AHL or sat for any length of time, but giving him a couple extra days to rest just makes good sense.

- It's nice to see the STP line being who I thought they could be at the start of the year. If Stoll had been playing this well when the goaltending was miraculously good, the Oilers would have had a much nicer cushion to completely blow with this losing streak.

- I didn't see Roy really screw up except on the OT goal. That's a pretty solid positive in my books.

Hopefully the team generally not looking like ass is a sign that this horrendous losing streak is over. Hopefully a 8 game winning streak is coming up. Hopefully that doesn't blind Lowe to the need for another good dman for this team.

And while I'm hoping for things, I'd like a pony.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Stars @ Oilers: Post Game Comment and Video.

MattM and I decided to head down to the Black Frog once again this evening in hopes of catching another solid Oiler victory. While it was a wildly entertaining game, it was also a fairly disappointing performance by the Oil. Mistakes were made by just about everyone: forwards, defensemen, vets and rookies. Unfortunately on this night, Roli wasn't able to bail anyone out. A few observations:

- Horcoff looked great out there with Smyth and Lupul. He made a great deflection-pass to setup Smytty on Lupul's goal, and roofed a laser top shelf off of the rush. This line had a really solid night.

- Stoll's line kept up their stellar play. They were solid in the both zones all game, especially late in the third when we were looking for the equalizer. The STP line is pretty much gold.

- The Czechs weren't so great. They had a few nice offensive shifts, but didn't manage to generate any quality chances. Defensively, this line pretty much lived up to expectations: it was horrible. The second Stars goal was almost comical, Sykora is playing the role of the low man - generally the centers job in the defensive zone - and plays his check pretty soft behind the net. The Stars player throws the puck back to the point which results in a slap shot wide. Then two Stars then go behind the net to fetch the puck and Gator follows. The Star closest to Gator feeds it off to the 2nd man (the one that the low man is supposed to be on), which forces Greene to cheat away from the front of the net. Next thing you know, Mattias Tjarnqvist receives a pass in front of the net and no Oiler is within 5 feet. You can pretty much put this goal squarely on Sykora's shoulders. It was his responsibility to either check the guy behind the net or make sure Tjarnqvist was covered.

- Generally, a fourth lines job is to provide your team with some energy and not get scored on; any sort of offense is pretty much a bonus. Tonight, our fourth line didn't do it's job. In the first period, Jacques was out there throwing some hits and everything seemed fine. However, Dallas' first goal can pretty much be summarized as a couple rookie mistakes. First, Jacques missed a 3 foot pass deep in the Dallas zone, which then led to a 3 on 3 rush. Second, on that rush, Pouliot messed up his coverage and gave Stefan a clear lane to the net. Next thing you know, the Stars are back in the game.

- I'm pretty excited about the Smyth - Horcoff - Lupul line. It's just a matter of time before Hemsky and Sykora get their rhythm back. Sykora leads the team with 12 even strength goals, with Hemsky assisting on 8 of them. These two can do some real damage 5 on 5, regardless of who they are out there with. If they can get their shit together, our top three lines should be lethal.

- Gator got caught on a bad pinch on the 5th goal, it wasn't Greene's fault.

- Smid is out 7-10 days, at least that means Hejda stays in the line up.

- The tying goal is pretty much beyond words. I think the hockey Gods were evening up the McGeough score.

Ryan Smyth Mic'd Up.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Panthers @ Oilers: Post Game Comment.

This evening, MattM and I headed down to the Black Frog to catch this PPV game. We are both a bit down on the Oil lately, but hoped tonight would be a bounce back game. I can say with confidence that we were not disappointed. A few observations:

- Stoll's line played the toughest minutes tonight, and they looked great out there. With the exception of a partial breakaway after a Matt Greene mistake, Jokinen's line had basically no quality chances at ES. Coming out a collective +4 against the other the other teams best is pretty much the best case scenario. All around a great performance by Stoll, Pisani and Torres.

- Although I have mentioned in the past that it's not my ideal line, Hemsky played well with Horc and Smyth. It certainly is an improvement over MacT's insistence on pairing Horcoff with defensive liabilities and expecting him to play tough minutes. It's not how I would do it, but I'll take it.

- Jan Hejda should stay in the line up. There is no reason why this guy should be sitting in the press box while we field Smid, Greene, and Tjarnqvist. He played a solid game tonight, just like every other game he's played this season. His key pinch led to the all important first goal of the game, and he covered very nicely for Greene's mess up by forcing Jokinen to the outside.

- Pouliot had a decent game, and Petersen played OK. They had one good energy shift 4 or 5 shifts before our first goal.

- MAB is such a roller coaster player, he makes 2 bad plays and 2 great plays in the same shift. Luckily, one of the great plays led the Game Winning Goal.

- Roloson played OK. Although I'm glad we kept Florida hemmed in their zone, as he still looked like he was fighting the puck on a few occasions.

All and all a solid effort by the Oil. Let's hope they can keep it up.

Defending Shawn Horcoff.

I got into a lengthy debate on HF after presenting my ideas for improving the team. One particular poster decided to take offense to my suggestion that Horcoff should not be paired with Hemsky and Sykora against quality opposition. He contended that it was Horcoff dragging down Hemsky and Sykora at ES, not vice versa. So I went and checked out some shift charts and compared Horcoff's ES results based on his line mates. Needless to say, what I found re-enforced my belief that Horcoff's plummeting +/- stems in part from his current line mates.

Out of Smyth, Pisani, Lupul, Sykora and Hemsky, I consider only Smyth and Pisani as defensively sound forwards.

Games 1 through 10 Horc is paired with Smyth and Lupul: -2.
Games 11-25 Horc is paired with Smyth and Pisani: -1
Games 26-33 Horc is paired mostly with Lupul and Sykora: -3
Games 34-Present Horc is paired mostly with Sykora and Hemsky: -6

Let's break it down:

Games with no questionable defensive forwards on his line: 15.
Result: -1.
On pace for: -5
Games with 1 questionable defensive forward: 10.
Result: -2.
On pace for: -16
Games with 2 questionable defensive forwards: 13.
Result: -9.
On pace for: -56

This certainly suggests that pairing Horc with more than 1 or more defensively irresponsible forwards and still relying on him to play tough minutes is a recipe for disaster.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Wake Up MacT.

My gripes:

1. The Sykora - Horcoff - Hemsky experiment should have ended before we went into Calgary. Judging by their plummeting plus/minus, this line is not ready to go up against teams second bests. I've watched every Oiler game this season, and one fairly consistent pattern I observed was that more often than not when we are running around in our zone desperately trying to get the puck out, Sykora and Hemmer are on the ice. Now I'm a big fan of Hemsky, and I think his overall game has come a long way, but I still don't think he is ready to play tough minutes. Right now all I see is Horcoff's talents being wasted on a line that really shouldn't be relied on to play defense.

2. You struck gold with Torres - Stoll - Pisani, and you're still losing games. You tried to go into the year with Moreau - Stoll - Pies as your shutdown line, preferring to run checking vs power. That experiment didn't work out too well, all three players were in the minus when Moreau went down with his shoulder injury. After a few weeks of the blender, you came up with a gem. I'm not really sure why this line is performing so much better with Torres in Chopper's place, but I would speculate that Stoll has been playing at a much higher level since Moreau went down. To be honest, in the first 10 or so games of the season, I was really disappointed in Stoll. I had high hopes for him, believing he could step in and take Peca's role on the team. If I were asked to find a silver lining in the current mess, it would have to be the emergence of Stoll as a center that can play tough minutes.

3. The kids aren't ready; there is no way that JFJ should see the ice at the expense of Patrick Thoreson. Thoreson's offense may have tailed off in the last month and a half, but he still remained responsible in his own zone (+1 in 32 games). I Can't say the same for the -8 in 17 games Jean-Francois Jacques. You're kidding yourself if you think Thoreson doesn't give you a better chance to win.

4. Everyone knows we need to make a trade. We have good organizational depth at forward and a couple NHL ready 5-6 defensemen in our system. Use these assets to make a deal for two defensemen and a depth forward (just rentals).

5. Start relying on your horses. Put Horc and Stoll with quality ES line mates and let them drive the results.

My proposals:

Right now:

Smyth - Horc - Winchester/Pouliot
Match up against 2nd bests.
Torres - Stoll - Pisani
Tough minutes, out there against the opponents best.
Lupul - Sykora - Hemsky
Butter soft minutes; even if it means they play only 10 minutes ES a night.
Petersen - Reasoner - Thoreson
Whatever is left over.

In the next two months:

1. Deal Roy, Winchester and Anaheim's '07 first to St. Louis for Brewer and Dvorak.
2. Deal JFJ or Brodziak and a 2nd to LA for Sopel.

Come playoff time:

Smyth - Horcoff - Dvorak
Torres - Stoll - Pisani
Lupul - Sykora - Hemsky
Moreau - Reasoner - Thoreson
PB: Petersen and Pouliot

Brewer - Smith
Sopel - Staois
MAB - Greene
PB: Smid